Touchstone (Glass Thorns)
by Melanie Rawn
Cover Artist: Matt Stawicki
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765323620
Date: 28 February 2012 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
His mother wants Cayden Silversun, the wizard, to follow in his father's footsteps by making a living at the Royal Court. However, though he loves his mom, Cayden prefers a different path. The goal of the mixed race wizard (part elf, fae, and human) is to become a successful tregetour writing the most highly regarded plays.
Cade's best friends, Rafe the wizard, deploys magic to control the show and, Jeska the performer of all roles, deploys glisker magic to enhance audience acceptance of the play. Meanwhile Cade has visions of the future that if he does not make a radical change in his current life will occur, though he detests what he sees. When the trio meets Mieka, the elven glisker, they forge a partnership with him that they call Touchstone. Their vision is to be the greatest theatrical troupe of all times or die trying. However, Cade is concerned as his visions involving the newcomer are troublesome at best.
The first Glass Thorns fantasy is a fabulous character driven tale. The four prime protagonists are fully developed so that the audience understands the motives of each including the lofty BHAG. Also fully operable is the Rawn mythos in which a variety of purebred (dwindling in numbers since the war to end all wars) and interracial mixed species, living in relative harmony together, seem genuine. However, due to the elves refusing to participate in a war that devastated the other races; the other species for the most part detest the elves and many show their hostilities with overt de facto racism a way of life against the elven and by extension a major concern for the traveling troupe. The capital city of Gallantrybanks appears genuine with its diverse population and its different sections spanning the economic (guild) classes.
The special concept of a traveling troupe that uses magic to intensify their story-telling and performing their tales in various milieus that range from exquisite private properties to quality and dumpy taverns and theaters will be appreciated by fans for its uniqueness. This background provides freshness to the typical quest fantasy as the quartet does not know how well received they will be before, during, and after performing their shows. A list of terms also helps the readers with location, names and terms.
Finally, although the ending never resolves anything as this opening act focuses on populating the Rawn mythological world for future tales, fans who appreciate something different will want to accompany the troupe as they perform at the various castles that make up the Winterly Circuit. This work is pure magic.